An occupational hazard of the preacher is his tendency to turn the everyday things of life into homiletic examples. The latest victims? My five grown children.
As we get ready for the launching (soon, we pray!) of the Ordinariates on this side of the Atlantic, there’s a bit of dust-stirring, several ongoing kicks-from-the-devil, and a general messiness. The long Vatican summer seems longer than usual (even though it’s not). Dossiers have been sent in for consideration, resulting in lots of Anglican clergy hanging around mailboxes, hoping for a response today, or tomorrow at the latest.
As I view all this from the relative comfort of my already-Catholic parish, I feel an overwhelming desire to straighten it all out (not that I can). There’s something in me that wants to settle the dust, kick back at the devil, and organize the messiness. It probably stems from my “inordinate need for order,” or something. Whatever the cause, it brought my mind around to my children. More specifically, to the births of my children. What could that have to do with our present pre-Ordinariate situation, you ask? As with any preacher, give me some time and I’ll tell you.
I was present at the birth of each of my children. I went into the first one like a lamb to the slaughter, not knowing beforehand that I would be in the delivery room, and having no idea of what to expect. It was in St. Brenda’s Maternity Hospital, Clifton Park, Bristol, England. I was prepared to do the “Ricky Ricardo” routine of pacing around the waiting room, chain-smoking, and waiting for the door to open, with a nurse showing me a delightfully wrapped bundle of joy. That was not to be. When we arrived, with JoAnn in the midst of ever-increasing contractions, the midwife thrust some scrubs at me, told me to change, and to report for duty. Apparently, I was expected to help.
It wasn’t a pretty sight – near-miraculous, yes, but not pretty. No one needs the graphic details, but suffice it to say that I wasn’t expecting my sweet little daughter to enter the world with a bluish tint, and what appeared to me to be a misshapen head with forceps marks as added decoration. Her nose appeared to be pushed to one side. I couldn’t imagine what we had brought forth! But then…the first breath, bringing with it a healthy color to the skin. In almost no time, a precious round face and perfectly-shaped head. All the fingers and toes present and accounted for, and it became evident that we had produced a most beautiful little girl. I hardly need to say, after that experience, I was far better prepared for the next four births.
Could this be what we’re seeing now, with the birth of our Ordinariates in America and in Canada? I think we expected it to be all clean and tidy. Just one little push, and it would be delivered to us, all wrapped up in a pretty outfit and ready to show off to our friends and neighbors. Instead, like first-time parents, we’re getting a dose of reality. Birthing isn’t easy, but it sure is worth it!
Our Ordinariates will be born, make no mistake about it, so let’s not be put off by a bit of pain. We shouldn’t wonder that the whole thing is rather messy. It’s going to bear the effects of a difficult birth. But after the first breath, things will begin to come together. It will be ours – and like every one of our own new-born children, it will be very beautiful.